Free eBook: "Art & Science of CSS" from Sitepoint
November 19, 2008 9:16 PM   Subscribe

A 4-star rated book on CSS: The Art & Science of CSS is a FREE DOWNLOAD for 14 days from the folks at Sitepoint. Reader reviews give it 4 stars at Amazon. 208 pages.

A direct link for the impatient. (27MB — zipped pdf) Enjoy!
posted by spock (30 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Come now, b1tr0t. Instructions for merely learning CSS? How sophomoric! What philistinism! This book purports to explain the art and science behind our noble language.

I don't know. It's past my bedtime.
posted by danb at 9:33 PM on November 19, 2008

Ads on every page. Nice.
posted by ryanrs at 9:41 PM on November 19, 2008

For those of you who aren't completely sold yet, there are some totally sweet pictures of a cat vase on pages 49-64.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:48 PM on November 19, 2008

Gee, I can understand some snark if you feel you unfairly laid-out $20-$25 bucks for the book. But for a free download? Tough crowd!
posted by spock at 9:52 PM on November 19, 2008

Snark is all I have.
posted by ryanrs at 9:56 PM on November 19, 2008 [9 favorites]

I generally applaud alternate distribution models for media. As an enthusiastic newish owner of an ebook reader, I look forward to the bold new future in which any book may be had in an electronic format. I'm not ready to give up all my dead-tree books yet, but when I can get an ebook instead, I feel like I've done a little spot of environmental not-harm.

That said, I cringed a bit when I saw the full-page, full-color ad for My fears turned out to be unfounded; the chapters themselves remain unmolested save for a small text ad at the bottom of each page, which is a fair price to pay for a free book of apparently good quality. All the same, I dread the future of ad-supported publishing, because once they see it actually works, publishers' greed will know no bounds.

Years ago I subscribed to PC Gamer magazine, and one day I went through the pages and did a tally sheet. I found that 63% of the pages were advertisements. I don't subscribe to paper magazines anymore, and I'm not alone. You heard it here first--ebooks are next.

Just wait until publishers figure out that they can embed Flash video in PDFs. It'll be PUNCH THE MONEY WIN A PRIZE!!! all over again, at least until someone comes up with Adblock Plus PDF Edition. (And please, please please make it work with OS X Preview when you do.)

Not looking a gift horse in the mouth, though. This looks like a great book. Thanks, spock.
posted by [user was fined for this post] at 10:04 PM on November 19, 2008 [2 favorites]

I see this this book as an appetizer platter for newbies who will get a chance to learn a few neat tricks with CSS. Some won't go any further, but others will end up reading the specs and learning more systematically. I wouldn't recommend this book as a first purchase for my students (something like this is more thorough), but as a free download, it's a pretty decent option.
posted by maudlin at 10:09 PM on November 19, 2008

That was, of course, meant to be "PUNCH THE MONKEY." If you lived through the trauma to which I refer, I'm sure you knew what I meant. And I'm sure you shuddered, as I do.
posted by [user was fined for this post] at 10:13 PM on November 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

posted by rokusan at 10:16 PM on November 19, 2008


Also: not much between the bread on this one, I think.
posted by paisley henosis at 10:27 PM on November 19, 2008

Four stars usually indicate problems. You have to allow for a lot of uncritical five-star reviews with any product on Amazon. At first, I thought you were warning me away from the book by pointing out its four-star rating.
posted by yath at 10:37 PM on November 19, 2008

when I can get an ebook instead, I feel like I've done a little spot of environmental not-harm.

I'm not convinced of this, yet. Computers and electronics are a horribly dirty manufacturing process. And most consumer electronics get thrown out and replaced in what, one to three years? Then this e-book file has to sit on some server, running 24-7-365, waiting for you to download it. That seems wasteful, too. I just don't think that is a win for the environment.

I would love to hear otherwise, though. But then yet again, my apartment would be even lonelier without my bookshelves.
posted by YoBananaBoy at 10:50 PM on November 19, 2008

I have some coupons for orange juice, if anyone's interested.


posted by heeeraldo at 11:01 PM on November 19, 2008

I said it in the MeTa thread and I'll say it again here. If "Free e-book for 14 days!" is a bad FPP, then how do you feel about free cameras as post material? Was that any different? That post, going by the comments had a shelf life of 1 comment before what it purported to give away was gone.

How about this. Would this post be OK only if people started saying "WE HAVE eBOOKS!" somewhere in the thread to ensure that the post enters the halls of Metafilter history and in-jokery?

I have no interest in the free ebook that is being given away here. I do find the apparent contradiction in MeFite attitudes towards two kinds of free things as FPP material interesting, however.
posted by Effigy2000 at 11:07 PM on November 19, 2008

I am disappointed that this is not about CSS.

So, to save this thread, Let's Make Love and Listen to Death From Above.

posted by empath at 11:59 PM on November 19, 2008 [3 favorites]

My SO keeps asking me CSS questions, so I downloaded this book to drop over on his desktop for a little peace and quiet. ;) Thanks.
posted by dabitch at 3:55 AM on November 20, 2008

"ads on every page"
- oh i feel so sorry for you - what a hardship it must be to ignore the footnote on a free book.
posted by monkeyJuice at 5:00 AM on November 20, 2008

I skimmed the book. It's a beginner-to-intermediate primer on how to apply specific effects and styles to your web pages. Chapters are broken down by the part of the webpage to be styled: "Headings", "Tables", "Backgrounds", "Rounded Corners", rather than by starting with what MVC means, what the DOM is, and the principles of stylesheeting.

It looks like a good book to hand to somebody who's stuck in how things Used To Be Done and can't get their mind around modern approaches. It's a good book for your research group member who's assigned the job of setting up the project blog but hasn't got the time necessary to develop professional skills and will probably never work on a website again.

There are occasional invocations of CSS 3 to solve problems, with caveats that the majority of web browsers do not support CSS 3 yet. I'm a bit leery about their doing this, but they only present these as alternatives to recommended approaches, so it's acceptable.

It lays things out pretty clearly, aside from some non-harmful copyediting goofs. There are definitely worse books to learn from. Since I'm not the target market (I'm comparing their recommendations against what I consider best practices), I don't spend enough time with books at this level to say whether there are better ones. It's okay, and for free (with non-intrusive ads) it's hard not to recommend to those who could benefit from it. Stuff it, haters.
posted by ardgedee at 5:35 AM on November 20, 2008

As noted on page xi, the online errata page is here:
posted by spock at 6:32 AM on November 20, 2008

Oops. Sorry. Haven't had my morning coffee yet. Link above is for a different book. Corrected link:
posted by spock at 6:36 AM on November 20, 2008

Thank you Spock, bringer of free ebooks!

I've bought you a new lirpa as an expression of gratitude.
posted by Mister_A at 6:37 AM on November 20, 2008

It's always been interesting to me the table hacks of yore are so poo-pooed, yet lines and lines of CSS/HTML hacks are a-ok. People worked with what they had, just like now.
posted by mealy-mouthed at 6:45 AM on November 20, 2008

Computers and electronics are a horribly dirty manufacturing process. And most consumer electronics get thrown out and replaced in what, one to three years? Then this e-book file has to sit on some server, running 24-7-365, waiting for you to download it.

Good point. It might not be such a good trade-off for occasional readers. But in my case, I go through hundreds of books in the space of three years. That's not only a lot of dead trees, it's a lot of deliveries using fossil fuel-burning trucks (Amazon Prime has a subtle yet profound effect on one's willingness to receive frequent deliveries). The impact from the manufacture of my ereader and my fractional use of a download server is small by comparison.

I should have said "less harm" instead of not-harm. It's like those reusable shopping bags; sure they're manufactured, and eventually they wear out and have to be replaced, but when you think about the volume of plastic or paper bags you would otherwise discard in a year, there's no contest.

There is also increasing pressure on electronics manufacturers to reduce their environmental impact, and I support these efforts with my dollar as much as possible (unfortunately they don't rate ebook readers).
posted by [user was fined for this post] at 7:04 AM on November 20, 2008

Hi, I'm from MetaFilter, and...
posted by Wolfdog at 7:56 AM on November 20, 2008

I also don't get the objection to these ads. The full-page ads are only at the very beginning and end of the book. If you don't like the ones along the bottom, drag your PDF viewer window down until they are hidden below the bottom edge of your screen.

I would be thrilled to see more ebooks using advertising in exactly this way, if it means I get current, well-written content for free. My concern is that it won't stay this way, and we'll end up with ebooks in which the content has constant competition for our attention. (Forget "Punch the monkey" scenarios for a moment and imagine if the text ads in this ebook used the blink tag.)

I'm also concerned that they'll end up being non-free. Sooner or later, some ebook publisher is going to notice that cable TV viewers and (most) magazine subscribers are actually willing to pay for the privilege of being advertised at.
posted by [user was fined for this post] at 8:14 AM on November 20, 2008

Personally, I would rather either have a web site or a physical book. I have lots of ebooks that I never look at (downloaded this one, though).

I have bought a couple of Sitepoint books and found them generally pretty good as reference works.

I highly recommend checking out/bookmarking their CSS and HTML references, which are the most user-friendly display I've found yet of CSS/HTML properties with implementation and support.
posted by camcgee at 9:05 AM on November 20, 2008

I like it! Thanks for the link!

Required snark: Come for the art! Stay for the science!
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 9:12 AM on November 20, 2008

I found that 63% of the pages were advertisements.

Noted as a former ink-stained wretch, a 40/60 editorial to advert split is considered the standard for magazine publishing that allows a title to (hopefully) make a modest amount of money while not charging $20 a copy. Now whether that model should die or not is in wallet of the beholder, I suppose.
posted by jalexei at 10:10 AM on November 20, 2008

Interesting, jalexei. It seems outrageous to me, but I know very little about publishing. I sometimes buy magazines imported from the UK at around $15 apiece and have noticed that the percentage of ads is far lower, but I attributed the higher price to import costs and bundled value-adds (like tutorials on DVD), not so much to reduced advertising volume.*

I might not be so bothered by the volume of ads in a typical (domestic) magazine if publishers didn't rely on so many tricks to shove them in my face. Insert cards, foldout pages, pages made of stiff paper, and table of contents on page 28 are all designed to force readers to look at particular ads and make it harder to get to the content.

It's the paper equivalent of a huge, blinking Flash ad on a web page. And while I don't feel all that strongly about it, I do kinda resent being asked by a publisher to pay to be treated that way.

So I don't buy magazines full of ads any more. I have no opinion on whether the model should die, but it doesn't represent sufficient value to me now that I can get quality up-to-date content online. As the example of PC Magazine (and others) illustrates, more and more people are evidently feeling the same way.

*Also, frankly, they just have higher-quality content than their US counterparts.
posted by [user was fined for this post] at 12:20 PM on November 20, 2008

Thanks for the link, spock. I've got a pretty good command of CSS but I'm out of practice and have been needing to go back and brush up on some of the more advanced layout tricks. I dunno if this is exactly what I need, but I'll be checking it out this weekend.
posted by kryptondog at 8:16 AM on November 21, 2008

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